Sunday, October 2, 2016

An impression of Wakatobi

A bit more than two weeks ago, I travelled to Makassar to attend one of my friends wedding in Makassar. It was an idea floated by another friend, suggesting that we should travel to Wakatobi while we were already there. Wakatobi (google it google it...) is one of those chains of islands that were, in the past, pretty hard to get an access to simply because there is no proper infrastructure to reach there (I may be very possibly wrong on this).

I was in general, as usual, unprepared for the trip. I simply didn't know what was coming and what to expect from the trip. I didn't even know that Wakatobi is famous for its water sport, such as diving and snorkelling. This trip is pretty special for me, because it's now, by far, the most eastern part of Indonesia I've ever been to (previous record held by Makassar, and mind that I've not visited Bali yet, i.e. Balivirgin, T.T) and also, I first heard about Wakatobi from this very relaxing song by Budi Doremi, titled Asmara Nusantara (check it out: ). Never have I thought that I would one day visit this place called Wakatobi.

Furthermore, I have to shamefully admit that, despite having travelled to a few number of the popular cities in Europe, I have an extremely bad track record of travelling around Indonesia. It's been a shame, as in my instances have shown, that a measureable number of foreigners I've met here, have been to more places in Indonesia than me. In the most recent conversation I had with my landlord, he told me of his adventure in the past, travelling in Indonesia. He tried to recall one of the cities he went to. I immediately exclaimed 'Bali!'. Within less than a second, he brushed me off, saying that it was not Bali he was talking about as Bali is too popular and that everybody must've been to Bali before! I simply nodded in agreement...

This trip also came in the right time as I've finished reading Elisabeth Pisani's book "Indonesia Etc" telling her story about her travel in some of the remotest place in Indonesia. It's a good book, I really recommend this book as she told a great deal of story about places in Indonesia that you might never visit in your lifetime.

My initial thought of this place told me that it must be an isolated place, with very bad infrastructure, jungle everywhere, dispersed villages, etc. As it turned out, it is not as bad as I have thought, and in fact they now have a pretty good infrastructure. Okay, let me tell the story in detail, as much as I can recall from my direct experience and conversation with the locals.

I have to put a disclaimer first of all, that this is my honest view of Wakatobi, as someone raised in a city far away from the eastern part of Indonesia, constantly bombarded by local knowledge (very often false) that made me assume something about any place that is in general far away from the main island.

Map of Indonesia
Flight route to Wakatobi

Wakatobi mainly consists of four big islands: Wangiwangi, Kaledupa, Tomia, Binongko. The island I visited is Wangiwangi. To reach that Wangiwangi (also referred to as Wanci), I took the only flight that goes there, operated by WingsAir, subsidiary of LionAir, from Makassar. The aircraft is propeller-powered aircraft which made me so excited when I saw it! I seem to have the impression that this is not the first time I took it but it definitely is the first one I had in the last ten years! It is NOISY but AWESOME despite only 10 kg of checked in baggage is allowed!
The cargo is loaded from the front door, passengers get into the plane from the rear door

Can't resist the temptation of taking picture of the propeller when its running at full speed.

From Makassar, the plane flew to Kendari (about 55 mins) for a short stop to refuel, and then it flew to Wanci (about 45 mins). The name of the airport in Wanci is Matahora airport. There is a funny story from one of my friends that travel there together, he called the hotel's number asking for direction from the airport to the hotel. The person then answered that the hotel would be in charge of transporting us from the airport to the hotel and back to the airport again. My friend was then a bit confused because we have never given any information about our flight and continued explaining his confusion to the person. The person then replied telling my friend that there is only one flight that flies there everyday. So they always know what time we are going to arrive there. I'm not sure if as of this moment, there is only one flight per day. Imagine that the airport operator working for few hours, taking care of arrival and departure, and then go back to the daily life activities everyday, it's so weird, in contrast to the typical activity of a busy airport where the operator job probably runs almost 24 hours.

We spent about 3 days 2 nights in Wanci. It's definitely not enough, we need more! The first day we arrived there, it was about noon, full flight. The airport is surprisingly new, I could still see and smell the new layer of asphalt. Expectedly, there is only one aircraft there, the one we took. It stopped in front of the airport entrance. Once we walked into the building, the baggage conveyor belt is directly in sight, and the exit is just right in front of it. There's nothing much there, except for few chairs to sit on and a decently sized map of Wakatobi.

View of Matahora Airport from its field. Aircraft is behind me. Notice that new layer of asphalt (darker color) in front of me.  The entrance on the left is the arrival hall. The one on the right is the departure hall. I was told that Garuda Indonesia will be opening a new flight route to Wanci this coming October. 
I was a bit nervous though, wondering if anyone is going to pick us up after all. Fortunately, there was no need to worry, someone came to pick us up *yay! Upon exiting the airport building, I discovered a really good road in front of us, an asphalt road, smooth and wide enough for two cars going on both direction. It was surprisingly even better than the one we can find in Medan. Of course, it is highly reasonable to find the road in such a good condition when the only car I can see in sight right outside the airport is the one we are taking (the next day, I managed to see three cars, including ours, at the same time).  I can see newly built houses on both sides of the road, children playing in school uniform, from time to time, small shops offering different services/products. Upon conversation with the driver, I was told that this road is a loop in itself circling the whole Wanci island. The airport building, runway, and the good asphalt road were renewed/started like two years ago.
The main road

Pertamina fuel station. I found several pertamina stations along the way. They told me that it's not open everyday and if it's open it's usually finished in few hours. How do they know if the station is operating that day? They have to wait there at 7 in the morning, and ask the operator there if it's open that day.
Oh yes, we live in a resort called Patuno resort, located in an area called (surprise) Patuno. It's a decent and nice resort, with a nice view of the sea, nice place to relax, delicious and decently priced food (average price for a main: 60 - 70K rupiah). Enough said, I'll just put the pictures here.


Wow2: view from the front of my room. Not a swimming pool!

Wow3: Sunrise

Wow4: Sunrise
We managed to go for a short diving session, organised by the resort. It was good, unfortunately we didn't have enough time to enjoy it more. They have a guided diving package so don't be afraid if you do not have prior experience in diving. They prepare the equipment and attire. The diving is not onsite, so they have to bring us elsewhere to find proper spot for diving. We wanted to snorkel on that day as well, but we simply did not have enough time for it. They have to drag us out of diving in time to head back to home. One of the most memorable time for me when I was waiting for my turn to dive again. I was already in the water for quite some time, but then as the water started to recede, the boat has to move away from the shallow water into the deeper water. Since I am still in the water, they asked us if we want to come up or stay in the water, we decided to stay in the water. They let us hold on to the small ladders and rope they have on the side of the boat. 

I did not know what was to come... It was extremely tiring and hard to hang on to it! I was literally hanging on to my life! On the first occasion, there were two of us, and I was holding on to the ladder with my hand. It was not so bad. On the second occasion, there were three of us, and I was in the front line, hanging on the rope only... It was really crazy, as the wave kept hitting on me, I tried to use the breathing equipment to breathe, but it was to no avail. On the third occasion, I thought I was already quite well trained in it, I decided to hold on to the ladder with my hand and my body. There were two of us. The third time didn't go so well too. hahaha. In the end, I think I just have to train my muscle more!

After diving: as you notice, I'm not properly dressed for the occasion. Luckily they need us to wear the diving suit anyway. So I was saved by the grace.
The next day, we decided to rent a car to travel around the city. I think it was like 500K rupiah for 6 hours, not so bad as there are 5 of us and it was considerably cheaper than diving and other stuff. He started bringing us to beaches in Wanci. Then the driver actually offered us a chance to snorkel, at another beach with a much cheaper price than the one offered by the resort. We took the chance. Of course, cheaper price comes with equipment that is probably not so hygienic as compared to the one that the resort offers (but we don't really know as well if the resort's equipment is as good and hygienic as well, so yeah..). In addition, this time, there is no guide as well, so we have to go on our own. Luckily, one of us has done snorkelling before and snorkelling is probably not as technically demanding as compared to diving. I honestly enjoyed snorkelling more than diving. With the breathing piece and a safety float, we are all set to go. I saw more beautiful corals and cute fishes in snorkelling to be honest. It was awesome, if it was not for the fact that we haven't had our lunch and two of our friends were still on the beach waiting for us, we would have snorkelled more!

After snorkelling, the driver brought us to a restaurant called Restoran Wisata. It's famous for its restaurant site that is above water. Right below the dining table is a direct access to water (if you jump and obviously you don't want to because you're there to eat and I don't actually know how you're going to get up anyway). You can sit on the surrounding support, with you legs hanging above the water. Food is nice, seafood is obviously the way to go in this place. Price is still decent as well.

After our late lunch, the driver brought us to Bajo Mola village. Bajo tribe (google it for more detail!) is a tribe that in the past lived in the ocean. At some point, they settled around Wanci village. They are famous for their houses built on the water.
Bajo Mola's houses on water

Bajo Mola's houses, the wooden walkway is apparently quite fragile as I realised after  using it. We were lucky that we didn't fall down during our walk there.
The driver told me that the Bajo tribe will continue living in this way, as apparently they get sick easily if they live on the land. Then we were brought to Kontamale. The driver told me that it's 'air dalam batu' or water in a stone. I didn't understand what he meant by it. What we saw was a natural pool surrounded by water, with locals happy bathing in it. As it turned out, it's a water cave and people do actual diving to explore the inner of the cave.

We travelled to a fishmarket. The plan was to buy some fresh fished from the market and asked the resort restaurant to cook them for us. It was good. I forgot the name of one of the fishes we ate, but it has blue bones!
Fish market

Our last stop before we head back to Patuno is Wasabi Nua, a small restaurant situated on a stone  separated from the mainland by water. It's connected by a small wooden bridge though, making it all more exotic. We were there watch the sunset. It was a bit cloudy that day, but we enjoyed the view. I had STMJ (susu telor madu jahe or milk egg honey ginger) as my drink (yes, drink). A weird combination that I've never had before.

It was unfortunately the last night in wanci, I wish we have more time there as we would be able to snorkel and dive more. They actually offered us to dive with sharks, and also see doplhins! But all good things will come to an end. 

The next day, we departed from wakatobi in the morning. As usual, I never learned from my past experience. I initially assumed that the procedure at the airport would be quite simple. Who would want to invest in xray machines and all other stuffs just for an airport that serves one flight per day anyway. The thought was unfounded. They have two X-ray machines in the airport. The machines obviously worked properly as we were caught bringing shells we found on the beach. We didn't know it was illegal to bring shells from the beach as apparently the region is under the protection of the national park. The local people obviously didn't know about it because we did actually ask if it's allowed to bring the shells back and they said yes to us.

So, yeah, that marks the end of my wakatobi trip, will want to return there again some day. It was good.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Do not run away nor get attached to it

I just had a very amazing meditation session this evening. It was one of the best and shortest 35 minutes of meditation I've ever had. The theme of the meditation today is emotional pain. The abbot talked about the concept of emergency switch, where whenever we encounter an inconvenient situation, our brain immediately switches to emergency mode. For instance: when we feel itchy on our face or somewhere on our body, then we will react to it by scratching that part of surface, or when we are feeling pain on a certain part of our body, then our body will adjust to it by changing its position in the hope to kick away the pain. It's a similar concept when you feel angry, cheated, disappointed, so on and so forth.

One of the advices he gave on encountering this problem is not to switch on your emergency mode and neither to run away nor personalise it. Not to run away means that you don't try to deny its existence. Not to personalise it means not to let yourself sink in that sad or painful feeling. But instead you have to acknowledge that the feeling is there and be with it. When he asked us to meditate on the recent happenings in our life that gave us emotional pain, I could only think of one. During my meditation, many things started to resurface, like there was this flood of emotion in my mind. I could suddenly identify many events that are more recent that the one I initially thought. The emotional pain they inflicted on me were pretty intense. I tried to follow the advice, not to run away nor personalise it. But to acknowledge and be at peace with it. The best part is that the emotional pain slowly disappeared and in the end all of my grudges were gone. I didn't manage to get to the next ones, because the session was finished. But I think this is one of the greatest meditation revelations I've ever had.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Digital Archaeology

My DPhil supervisor, Alexy, is part of a team that for the last few months (years?) had been very busy with an undercover project, trying to capture images of important historical monuments that are under threat of destruction from the Daesh.

It is really well known that the Daesh wants to basically destroy everything, including ancient sites that are still around till these days. For whatever reasons they have, I don't want to dwell into that as it's probably not worth my and your time to find out. Anyway, the Institute of Digital Archaeology in UK together with scientists from University of Oxford and Harvard (as far as I can recall), came up with this idea of capturing 3D images of historical sites and monuments in Syria so that we will be able to recreate it in the future. They have to find volunteer photographers that were okay with being sent to the field, capturing 3D images with a simple, discreet and cheap 3D camera kit. The results are quite amazing and the quality of the pictures are really good. They were able to recreate the all of the details including the characteristics of the monument originated from the wear of time. All of the pictures were then uploaded online into the Million Image Database Project hosted by the Institute of Archaeology. I believe that all of these will be available online really soon.

One of the important historical sites that were destroyed by the Daesh is Palmyra. It was a 1800-year-old sites that had survived a lot of big civilisations wars and no one (probably) came close to destroying it and the Daesh did just that. When it was destroyed, everybody thought that this ancient heritage was lost forever. Thanks to this Million Image Database project, they managed to recreate the famous Arc of Triumph of Palmyra down to the finest detail they can have. The stone was then taken from an Italian Marble (if i am not wrong) and then carved using 3D milling machine on site. They were then transported to Trafalgar Square in London. Last Tuesday, I was there to witness the unveiling of this magnificent piece of art: the recreated Arc of Triumph of Palmyra. The recreated piece is a scaled down version of the real one because there is a weight restriction on the Trafalgar Square. Anyway, a lot of people came to witness the unveiling, the media was there, and the London Mayor: Boris Johnson, was there to do the honour of unveiling of the Arc.

It was truly a humbling experience to see one of the many instances where technology brings up the humanity in us. This project lights up the candle of hope for people, this time for the people of Syria. It's a symbolic gesture that violence can never win in the end, you can destroy all historical sites and kill people, but you can never destroy the bond that binds the Syrian people through generations.

Moments before Boris Johnson officially launch the Million Image Database

Before the arc was unveiled

The arc of Palmyra in the Trafalgar Square

Friday, April 8, 2016

An exemplary model of public governance

I was recently very interested in Jakarta's political scene. The current governor of Jakarta, Ahok, is a very unique example of a public leader that, I think it's fair to say, no one would have ever thought of appearing in Jakarta, let alone outside Java. He labelled himself as a triple minority: he's of Chinese descendant, he's a Christian, and he's not from Java. He's not afraid to be shown speaking in a chinese dialect to his mother when one of the TV station filmed his daily activities. He gave an interview in mandarin to a Chinese news channel. He's not afraid of ... basically ... (probably) anything.

Well, what I think is the most interesting of all is that he gave a very, I would say, exemplary example of a public leadership. With the election coming up in one year, everyone has been busy trying to rake up money and support from political party. But yet, he has decided to go for independent track, something that has never been tried before in Indonesia and he will probably be the first that may actually win a governor election through independent track. More importantly, as he has stated in a public interview, that he does not care if no one wants to elect him in the next election and he will keep working until the end of the term. He will work hard for the people and when the time has come and it turns out that he lost the election, then he will be okay with that. What's interesting is that an independent movement called Teman Ahok has been working so hard to gather support from the Jakarta people by collecting a copy of identity card and statement from everyone that he/she is supporting Ahok and his future deputy in the election. Collecting one million identity cards is not an easy task.  And yet, he entrusted this in teman Ahok, if they fail then (probably) that's it, he will be governor until next year. For him, if the people wants him to be the governor again, then the people will have to work hard to ensure that he gets elected and not the other way round. This is a stark difference from how the election has been carried out before, where the incumbent and the newcomers worked so hard to get the people's favour. 

This is an excellent example of a public leader that worked genuinely hard and honest for the people. And the people know and worked hard to get him elected again. He's my role model from now on. I learned so much from just looking at the way he handled problems. For me, he's more than just a role model, Ahok is the proof that Indonesia (people and mindset) has gone past beyond the old regime, that there is more than a bright future to Indonesia, that (undoubtedly) there are more people like Ahok that is genuinely working for the community and the nation. For me, this is a sign that there is a hope for Indonesia.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Macbook retiring soon?

The macbook pro I'm using right now has been accompanying me for almost seven years (6.5 to be fair..), and it's really getting really (literally) slow these days. With 4GB of RAM, it feels like it's going on the slow lane. I have been thinking of getting a new laptop lately, should I get one from apple? or should I get one from other brand?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

My thought on LGBT

I recently encountered someone's status update in facebook about LGBT. I usually refrain myself from discussing any controversial topic unless if I know I would have a proper discussion with the person. While there's nothing wrong with the status update and he's entitled to have his own opinion, someone commented that LGBT culture is not suitable in our country which is based on Pancasila.

I was really surprised when I read about it. Pancasila? I may not have a solid law education in interpreting Pancasila, but as far as I know, there's no principle in Pancasila banning LGBT. So please don't bring Pancasila into the story and say that it contradicts LGBT. Of course, if there's a state rule saying that LGBT should be banned, then it's fine, you can based your argument on that rule, but please, not Pancasila.

While I believe that whether LGBT can be accepted or not depends on the local community, I cannot accept if someone brought in Pancasila's first principle which is about 'Tuhan yang Maha Esa'. It's roughly translated to 'belief in one god' (not the exact interpretation). But where does it mention that it does not accept LGBT? I can't imagine why someone in LGBT community cannot have a god. Everyone is entitled to believe in the god he/she wants to believe. I'm pretty annoyed when someone, because of his personal belief, take the first principle out of context.

Of course, if you don't accept LGBT, it's fine. If your religion does not accept LGBT (which I think is rather unfair, since they do no harm to others), then it's fine. But don't impose it to others! The same goes to the LGBT community, you just can't force everyone to accept you especially in Indonesia.

Whether LGBT is right or wrong, whether the behaviour of the individual is right or wrong, is a matter of personal affair between the individual and the god itself. In my opinion, this is just too personal.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

January Reflection

As the official Oxford term is starting again next week, I can't help to not think about my blog. It's been a while since I wrote something here. I guess it has been a pretty busy and enjoyable time here in Oxford. It's so liberating to not have anything related to admission essay, application and scholarship in your mind all the time. I still remember when I first started working in NTU, I somehow thought of applying for a graduate school two months in. I guess that might be a sign that I didn't really like the environment there.

I think I spent three months at the end of 2014 writing my admission essay everyday after work. Halfway in, I got to do a Skype chat with my current supervisor. I still remembered that I was really sick at that time, but then I forced myself to do the Skype right after my work. It went better than what I expected. I was then sick for the two to three days following the Skype chat. Admittedly, I am a pretty slow writer and it took me some time to synthesise something for my essay. Then there came the waiting period, where to be honest, I couldn't really recall what I did during that time. It was probably the time where I felt like I needed a rest. Then there was this feeling where I felt that I may have not even passed the document selection stage because I didn't get any email from them during the week where I was supposed to get one. If I remembered it correctly, it was probably during the week when I was working quite hard at work as well. So I thought, if I didn't pass then fine. No problem. I never expected to go to grad school that early and I was probably aiming for the impossible, i.e. a totally different subject and applying to Oxford. At least I told myself that I tried. One thing that no one knew, is that I secretly regret never having even tried applying to school like MIT or Oxford in high school. I knew the chance was small because the competition was fierce, but I should have at least tried. And at that time, I thought getting into NUS is already the best I could have (as it turned out, NUS experience is not so bad after all, give and take).

The admission interview went pretty well, and it wasn't very hard. One or two weeks after interview, no news. And I told myself, it's fine. At least you got shortlisted for interview. Many people asked me what will happen if I didn't get it, I told them: life goes on, not getting in is not the end of the world. I remembered it was friday evening,  I just came out of my lab, tired, things were probably not working at that time, heading back home. I was just doing the usual routine, checking Facebook, email etc.

And then I saw this email and it seemed that the world around me suddenly stopped....
"Your Application for a Place on Our DPhil in Condensed Matter Physics Programme"
Things seemed to be going really fast afterwards, okay, I thought: this is it, either yes or no. I read the email and quickly (impatiently) skimmed through it. The first paragraph read
Dear Sandoko,

I am writing to let you know that the University considered you for a DPhil in Condensed Matter Physics starting in October 2015. We were very impressed by your application and attach therefore a formal initial offer letter, which details the conditions which you will need to meet to become a student of the University.
I was like YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! My first impression is: finally, something's good coming out of today. And then I realised that this is more than that, I got admitted into Oxford! Something I never really thought could be possible until that moment. I had a nice evening afterwards, I don't remember what I ate that evening.

Anyway, this is a pretty nice recollection that I wish to be written in this blog so that someday I can read this back and remember the nice memory.

As of now, I find that I have a plenty of time to do more things (but still not enough, I need to be more efficient in my time management). I hope that my knowledge can get to a decent level so that I can stop reading and spend more time thinking. Being in Oxford gives me a lot of opportunity to meet and interact with brilliant people from other subjects. I hope that I make use of this opportunity at its fullest.

I used to eat while watching movies or browsing Facebook. Now I put away my laptop and read The Economists to get the latest update from the rest of the world. Otherwise, I feel like an idiot when I interact to people from other subject. Yesterday, I went to a weekly meditation session in a Buddhist vihara in Oxford (my first time!). Surprisingly the place is quite nice and the meditation session is long enough that I think, for the first time, I managed to catch and hold my mind still for a while. It felt very blissful. I came and went away but you can feel it. And for the first time as well, I managed to meditate for 45 minutes straight and came out feeling that 45 minutes passed faster than I expected. It was awesome, I hope to maintain this practice in the weeks to come.

Oh yes, I went to Morocco for 5 days. It was awesome! I got to ride on a camel and spent a night in the sahara desert! For the first time in my life, I saw a sky so full of stars. I managed to spot at least three shooting stars as well! My travel mates were awesome as well! Will post the photos here next time when I feel like it.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Two months in

So far, everything is going pretty well. I'm starting to get used to how things are done here. I actually like it here very much. I stayed in a very small room in a house far from most of the place in Oxford. I wouldn't say that it's very far in distance but there's literally nothing much other than houses in my neighbourhood. It's pretty nice and quiet though. I would have to cycle through the park connector road, which is quite beautiful in the morning but pretty scary in the evening. There is always this very dark and narrow road that I have to go through every time I returned home in the evening. However, behind all that, because there's not so much light pollution here, I can see a lot of stars here in Oxford, clearly. It's always nice to look at the sky before I entered the house.

Things have been very different from my last two years in Singapore. When I first returned to France,  I have to admit that, even until this day, what I did last time was crazy. The learning curve was pretty steep and I kinda forced myself into the experiment just for the sake of getting something to write for my thesis. My work-life balance in NTU was not so bad but the whole year was pretty much occupied with writing essays for Oxford application and LPDP scholarship. So, I did nothing much interesting on the physics side. 

Now, then I'm in Oxford, I get to free myself from all of the things that had been bothering me last year, so I am really full time into my studies and research! I am also trying to learn new things as well and try to be more active in the Indonesian community here in Oxford. I hope I can contribute something for the community here. 

I'm not really in the mood to write actually, so I will probably stop here and write another time. There will be pictures next time, I promise...

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Post PK-36

By this time, I couldn't exactly recall my feeling and excitement post PK activity. Nevertheless, there are two things that I am going to highlight here:

First is the PK36 highlight video made by our own awardees. This is cool, watch it. Either watch it here or use the youtube link. Do remember to like the video! hehehe.

Second is our "album kenangan" or probably more commonly known as year book. But since we are not a class and the PK didn't last for that long, let's just call it PK36 memory. This time, it is in full digital edition! Inside you can find the profile of each awardees as well as an audio file for each awardee that you can then click and listen to their dream for Indonesia as well as why they are proud of Indonesia. Check it out!

Fast forward to early september. My work contract with NTU ended, went off peacefully. Returned to Medan to see my parents and family. Two wonderful weeks well spent in Medan. I am satisfied.

Fast forward three weeks, now I'm writing this from my room in Oxford. Things look great, the hospitality is better than I expected. Oxford is surprisingly a very nice and pretty city. Totally different from the impression I got when I visited this city two years ago.

Loads of stuff to do in the coming weeks. Signing off yo!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

PK36's Happening

It's certainly hard to describe everything that happened during PK. I can safely say that it's a multidimensional story (and a vector space spanned by several orthogonal vectors.. ). However, it made such a heavy imprint in my memory that I'd really like to write it here. Not trying to exaggerate it, I feel that my own experience in PK has shown me one side of myself that I, to be honest, have tried so hard to conceal it from myself all this while..

Anyway, off we go:

On the first day, we had to wake up earlier than most people because we stayed off the location and all of us were supposed to reach Wisma Hijau before 7am.

Things started to get a bit messy first thing in the morning and in fact the night before when there appeared to be a misunderstanding between us and the organiser. So, one week before PK, they sent us a very detailed list of stuff that we need to bring including our tentative schedule for the whole week. The need to bring stuff include: 2 long-sleeve formal batik, 3 formal pants, one polo shirt, 3 training pants (yes, three), etc. To be honest, I wasn't sure how we were going to wear all of these in one week. From what I imagined, they would want us to change several times everyday to suit the theme of the seminars. But as it turned out, not all of them were needed. According to the list, we were supposed to wear collar shirt. Since they never mentioned that it was supposed to be a long sleeve, one would safely assume that it was not necessary to find a long sleeve one. The reason why everyone thought so was because for the batik and other shirt, they specifically mentioned that it must be a long sleeve shirt. But anyway, it was a minor detail, since everyone can wear their batik also which is long sleeve or other long sleeve shirt.

Our first time entering the seminar hall was pretty memorable and exciting. Upon entering, we were greeted with this song, Selamanya Indonesia, which, I am damn sure, every PK participants (I guess almost?), will remember even after the PK finished. This song is good, TUNE UP YOUR SPEAKER VOLUME & LISTEN TO THIS NOW.

This song left such a deep impression on us because there was this routine called the class call. So basically, during certain times of the day and before almost each seminar, they would start opening the door for several minutes during which all the participants should start entering the seminar room. The cue for this was always this song. They would put this song on through the loudspeaker. It was so loud that it could even be heard from outside. Upon entering the room, we had to take a smiley sticker and stuck it on the corresponding box of the attendance list. When the song ended, the organiser would close the door and removed the unused smilies. Participants who did not manage to put or get a smiley would get a special sticker (crying icon). This implied violation of the pre-existing rule and according to them, it would factor badly into their evaluation. This was why, whenever we heard this song, we would hurry back to the seminar room. This probably didn't sound so bad, but when you had like 20 minutes to eat or you had to go back to your room to take something or you were doing something important and you suddenly heard this song, you just have to leave whatever you were doing and go for the smilies. You could gamble by timing yourself properly, making sure that you got back just in time to get the smiley (you know that last few seconds of the song..). Sometimes it was just not worth the trouble because your late attendance somehow affected the evaluation of the whole batch and your representative leader. The latter doesn't make sense for me.

Before the first session, we had an ice breaking session with the MCs from the LPDP organiser. The session was not so bad because everyone was still very much awake.

Our very first session was from Dr. Hamdan Zoelva, who was previously the chief justice of the constitutional court of Indonesia. He is very popular because he presided over the dispute that appeared shortly after the latest presidential election result was announced. His court finally decided that the election was done in a fair manner and Jokowi is the rightful winner of the election. His talk was very interesting. He specifically mentioned that our founding father had realised the importance of education. In the early 1900, the Netherlands realised that they had taken too much natural resources from Indonesia including forcing millions of Indonesia to work as slaves. So they decided to give back to Indonesia by practising the so-called Politik Balas Budi (politics of reciprocity?). They chose a few Indonesians and sent them to the Netherlands to further their studies. Little did they know that it would be these scholars that would turn their backs against them. These Indonesian scholars eventually became the founding fathers of Indonesia. Realising the importance of education, they specifically mentioned the importance of education as one of the primary lines of defence that protects our nation from external disturbances, in the opening paragraphs of the constitution of Indonesia.

"...Kemudian daripada itu untuk membentuk suatu pemerintah negara Indonesia yang melindungi segenap bangsa Indonesia dan seluruh tumpah darah Indonesia dan untuk memajukan kesejahteraan umum, mencerdaskan kehidupan bangsa, dan ikut melaksanakan ketertiban dunia yang berdasarkan kemerdekaan, perdamaian abadi dan keadilan sosial,..."
(Top) First session by Dr. Hamdan Zoelva, (Bottom) Still innocent faces :p

Next came the PIC of our PK, which is Pak Hendra. To be honest,  I'm not sure if I should regard him as a strict or easy-going person. Due to pre-PK's happening, which I shall not go into detail here, I had the impression that he is a very strict person. During the PK however, he sometimes looked very friendly and was able to change his mood instantly as he did during his first presentation. One thing that I could retain from his presentation is that the PK is not used anymore to decide whether the participants will get a scholarship or not. However, it factors greatly when the participants wish to continue to do PhD under the LPDP scholarship if we was previously admitted under a Master program.

It continued with a presentation from Pak Lukmanul and Bu Ratna, regarding the reimbursement process. The Q&A continued till late in the evening. This is one of the most important talks of PK, because it's about our livelihood for the next few years....*it's all about the money money money*

One of Indonesian most famous ambassador, Dr. Dino Patti Djalal, was supposed to give a talk as well but he canceled it at the last minutes for some unspecified reasons. It was unfortunate as this was one of the talks that I was really waiting for.

The formal session ended around 10 pm and we still have to continue to choose our representative leader, rehearsed for the official opening of our PK scheduled for the next day and then make a daily report of all the talks that were given that day. Everything ended sometime around 2am.

The next day, we had to wake up before 5 am because there was a class call for morning sports session as well.

The first talk cum official opening was attended by Pak Abdul Kahar, the LPDP director in charge of our educational fund and Dr. Mari Elka Pangestu, the first female Chinese-Indonesian to be appointed as a minister in Indonesia. Her talk was light and pretty enjoyable. Most of her presentation was drawn from her own experience as a student overseas. She emphasised that we as Indonesian students and especially LPDP awardees are responsible for promoting Indonesia. She gave a roughly 20 minutes talk and continued with a Q&A session of about 90 minutes I guess. She is a pretty good public speaker.  Next, we had a 2-hour talk by Pak Abdul Kahar on the general direction of LPDP. Very interesting, and I actually got to know more about LPDP after listening to his talk.

(Top) Dr. Mari Elka Pangestu, (Bottom) Our group in Batik costume, somewhat in weird poses

Group Photos with Dr. Mari Elka Pangestu

On to the afternoon session: the organiser announced out of the blue that the pantomime performance was to be rescheduled after lunch. You can't imagine the panic that ensued afterwards. To be honest, we had not really practised much, not to mention that the storyline was kinda finished one night before the PK began. I'm not surprised if some of us were annoyed by this sudden rescheduling by the organiser. But looking back, the organiser is not to be blamed as well, because not all of the speakers made it to the events, which meant that they had to make up some thing for us to do on the fly. Another interesting thing that happened to me was that my face had to be painted in white and red.  It was not planned at all which meant that whatever that appeared on my face had to be made up on the spot as well! I was supposed to portray a role of a bad man and so my face finally turned into a face of a joker, literally. It was my first time wearing a lipstick as well. It was weird!

In the evening we had a talk by the Ambassador I Gede Ngurah Swajaya, outgoing Indonesian ambassador to ASEAN. It was rumoured that he's going to be the next Indonesian ambassador to Singapore. It was a very refreshing talk with many new perspectives. It was pretty informative. As usual, he kept his talk short and spent the rest of the sessions answering questions.   Somehow I couldn't find any of his pictures taken during the PK. One of the things that I learned from this PK is that all the great and knowledgable speakers spent less of their time for lecture and more time to answer questions from the audiences.

Right after this session + some "drama", we were told by the organiser that we had one hour to pack because we were going out on an outbound session the day after. So, basically we had to sleep in the bus. When I first listened to that idea, I was like... finally....a proper time to sleep. And so I thought. It turned out that the outgoing journey was not so comfortable. I didn't get much sleep. We departed at about 1 in the morning. Reached the venue like, if I remember correctly, probably 5 in the morning. The place itself was said to be a military training camp. It was very cold and dark. I couldn't see anything. We were then led to a "military" camp. The journey itself was quite interesting as we had to walk through one small section of a forest, in the dark, without any light. One had to be careful. Had a very heavy breakfast, waited, slept a bit again. When the sun rises, we were called up and assembled in groups. Had some time for ice breaking game. Briefed by the person in charge. Worn a military apparel and taught to make our own safety ropes. It was pretty fun although to be honest I was a bit disappointed that they didn't schedule a rafting activity for us. We also had paintball for our last session. It was quite fun actually although I got shot twice, from a bloody short distance and it was very painful, honestly. The trace from the bruise is still around even until today (*teary eyes*). Everything was finished around noon, we had our group photos and then departed for wisma hijau. On our way out, I then realised that they actually brought us to Lembang, Bandung. What the heck. This is the first time that I was transported so far without realising it. haha. And to my surprise, the place is so near to Tangkuban Perahu, which I actually visited few days before. What a coincidence! The return trip took a longer time, we reached wisma hijau around 6 something. Fortunately, the return trip was more comfortable and I could actually sleep well. We had a session from the British council in the evening. Right after that, if I am not mistaken, we had some more "drama" with 10 levels up.
(Top) We-fies (Center)Paintbal session (Bottom) British Council

We had one of the most interesting days in PK on thursday. We, again, had to wake up very early in the morning for our sport session. Then still in our sweatshirt, we attended a brief talk by Jay d'Terrorist (self proclaimed: Prov. Zainal Abidin PHD, no typo there. Prov for provocator and PHD for permanent head damage). It was an inspirational talk with the main theme of Social and Creative Entrepeneurship (SCE). The highlight of this SCE is this: he gave each of us an orange and one water bottle, and challenged us to raise fund as much as possible within a period of four hours. We were grouped in five and were not allowed to bring anything except for our own identification card. All of the proceeds from this activity would go to the Menyapa Indonesia project. It was actually very fun and PK36 managed to break the existing record and raised about 8 millions rupiah in four hours. It was pretty amazing considering the fact that we could only bring oranges and water bottles! The next session was by Baban Sarbana. To be honest, I couldn't exactly recall his talk. The SCE session is just too awesome.

(Top) Group Photos with Jay D'Terrorist (Bottom) Baban Sarbana

The last session in the evening was by Dik Doank. It fell short of any expectation I had. I think the session was certainly weird for me. I certainly couldn't get his point about virginity and woman. Other people may disagree with me. I think one can still become a respectful lady while not being virgin. Some lost their virginity by choice and some were not, but no matter how it came by, one can still be a lady. Most of his presentation was about him being able to afford a large area that he eventually turned into an educational area for children even though he is not really highly educated as us. I guess I know what he was trying to say: not to be arrogant. Unfortunately, I certainly think that the message could be conveyed in a much better way. Furthermore, I don't usually get offended when someone tried to imitate old Indonesian Chinese speaking bahasa, but somehow this time I did get a bit offended, to be honest. And the last thing he told us to do, was to draw a tree. While it may reveal something about the personality of the person (maybe.. ask your psychologist friend), but he just didn't give enough arguments when he tried to judge some people's personality out of his/her drawing. It just didn't make sense what he said about personality and its relation to the part of the tree he drew or didn't draw. All of this sentiment, I believe, was triggered by his remark about woman and virginity. He also started the whole discussion in a weird way. I didn't know what happened that evening, but his session was either a total letdown or I totally misunderstood his message. I highlighted that very clearly in the evaluation form.

Friday Morning! We woke up really early in the morning to perform our morning ritual. We were supposed to play some traditional games that Indonesian people usually plays to celebrate Indonesian independence day. In the midst of our games, we were suddenly told to stop whatever we were doing and to enter the seminar room right away. Just when I thought we already had enough "Drama" from the organiser, they simply gave us more. Not to say that we were completely innocent, we did violate some of their rules. However, I think what they did after was unnecessary and downright demotivating. Nevertheless they had the final word and that was it. All of the pre-existing rules were removed (good), no more class call (I miss the song), no more smiley attendance list (good), no representative leader anymore (not good) and organiser's participation would be as minimal as possible (not good) and that would continued till the end of our PK's activity. This meant that we would be on our own till the end. I guess everyone was as shocked as I was. Looking back, can it be some sort of social engineering? Was it possible that they tried to impart some values on us? If yes, I felt that it could be done in a better way. I'm not sure about how other people felt, but it seems that having no rule seems to be more liberating for me. Everyone was still on time, and in fact we all somehow agreed to even come earlier than we usually did. It should have been done in this way from the beginning.

I can probably think of few reasons for which they tried to uphold their rules, for example the class call and the smiley, etc. It was made so that everyone made it on time. Having a seminar with the speaker already inside and a half empty room is not funny at all and it will reflect badly on LPDP itself. The obligatory use of name tags throughout the whole course of PK is understandable as well, so that we can be properly identified. The rules are respectable and reasonable. What I think was not right were the sanctions imposed by the organiser. I don't get how having few individuals violating some rules meant that we had to reelect a new representative leader. I don't see any direct relation between having a new leader and everybody making it on time. In fact, I felt that forcing us to reelect a new leader would result in more confusion and disorder. I think we did the right thing by agreeing to go against the recommendation of the organiser and maintained our existing chain of command. The organiser did the right thing by respecting our decision. This is probably not the whole story and I had no prior experience in managing big groups of people but at least this is my take on this.

Anyway, on to the next session by Dr. Boediono, Indonesia's vice president 2004-2009. He has a very calm personality, and seems to be quite easygoing. I was really tired at that point. It was probably an accumulation of everything that had happened for the past few days. I just couldn't really concentrate very well. We also had some aptitude tests after that session. That one, I clearly remembered that I was very sleepy and was one of the lasts to finish the test. I have no idea what my result is going to turn out.

We had almost all of the friday afternoon for our own contemporary art show. It was pretty fun and amazing to see all of the interesting and unique performances from us. I myself, screwed it up. Little did I realise that I was going to screw up even more the day after... I sincerely apologise to all of my teammates :( :(.. Despite everything that happened in the morning, we somehow managed to bond together with the organiser again during the performances. At the end of the performances, we somehow got up together and started dancing together ( did we? it was something that started it, I don't remember what it was, but somehow everybody was already on their feet). I guess everybody was relieved that the PK was ending soon and we actually had good memories about it despite the "Drama". Surprisingly, the organisers joined us and started dancing, in fact, it somehow culminated in us dancing our flashmob move and then the organiser showed us their super team's flashmob move as well. It was fun, everybody bonded together around the stage, it should be like that from the beginning. I am still searching for that video actually.

On to the last task, the closing events of PK36. It was supposed to be one few projects that according to the organiser, will deeply reflect the performance of our batch. This is the first time, the closing ceremony was held in Pusdiklat BPK in Kalibata as it was usually held in Depok. We were all getting ready for it. Nervous. Some started to pack up in order to depart early to the pusdiklat for the preparation. I went there as well but eventually returned back to Depok again. I somehow ended up only sleeping for only one hour prior to the final day because I had to pack up again. On to the next day, everybody was nervous, fortunately everything went well. We had a lecture by Dr. Hassan Wirajuda, foreign minister for Indonesia 2001 - 2009. The lecture was pretty good and entertaining actually. I guess in the end, everybody was happy. After the events, everyone gathered up for the last time for a heart-to-heart talk, before everyone went back.  *tears*

(Top) Our group performance (Bottom) Photo with Dr. Hassan Wirajuda

Not sure how I managed to gather some more energy to survive till the night. Went straight from Kalibata to Gading Serpong to meet kak Hendra Kwee, my physics olympiad mentor. We had some interesting conversation. Was told about their plan to organise international physics olympiad in Indonesia in two more years. Not sure how they will manage to find the money for that but I believe they will be able to pull it out and it is going to be awesome!

Okay, I should stop editing this post and start a new one.